Spring is finally here, the weather is getting warmer, but most importantly Major League Baseball begins. Thirty teams come into the season with one goal in mind: winning the World Series. But who will be the 2015 champs? Can the Giants pull it off again? Or will the Royals return and redeem themselves? With the off-season transactions, teams are ready to make a statement. So what teams and players are we to look out for?
The American League is going to be a competitive division this season. With rising teams like the Mariners, Orioles and Royals, the standings will be close. Let’s start with the team to beat in the East. The Boston Red Sox’s transactions this off-season were efficient to their needs. With the addition of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, Boston’s offensive production will see a positive change. While playing for the Giants Sandoval’s numbers were nothing to write home about. He batted .279 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI’s. However, Fenway Park is a hitter’s field, with the “Green Monster” in left and the short porch in right and, therefore, may prove productive for Sandoval who played in a pitchers park, AT&T Park, his whole career. One trouble that Boston may encounter is their bullpen. Their bullpen lacks depth and a reliable closer, but their offense will carry them the rest of the season.
The AL Central is full of intimidating teams. The Central consist of the Tigers, Royals, Indians, White Sox, and Twins. In the end, the Tigers will be taking the Central once again. They lost important players like Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, but in return gained Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes. With Miguel Cabrera leading their offense, the Tigers’ lineup will certainly intimidate any pitcher. They have the perfect combination of speed, power and contact in their lineup. David Price is leading the pitching rotation, for now, until Justin Verlander returns. With his numbers, Price proved why he deserves to be the number one pitcher in the rotation. Once Verlander returns from the DL, the Tigers will have the best one-two punch in the American League.
Every team in the AL West has an opportunity to be in first place…well, not every team, sorry Houston maybe next year. The Seattle Mariners will be the team to win the division. The last time the Mariners finished in first place was in 2001 with a record of 116-46. This year the Mariners are stacked with Robinson Cano at second base, Austin Jackson manning center field and, of course, Felix Hernandez controlling the mound. These Mariners represent some Mariner greats such as Bret Boone, Ken Griffey Jr., and Randy Johnson, some of the greatest to play the game. Hernandez is key to the Mariners’ rotation. If he can stay healthy I believe he will set the pace for the rest of the rotation this season.
The National League is a different type of competition. The NL proved their dominance last year through the Giants’ World Series win. Can the NL do it again?
The NL East is a division that was quiet last season; however, this year they will be making the most noise. The question is, “Who will come out on top?” Some may say the Nationals, or the Braves, or even the Phillies…scratch that, I meant the Marlins. However, it is the underdog that will take it all, The Mets, with Matt Harvey and ageless right-hander Bartolo Colon leading the rotation. Colon provides plenty of playoff experience that the Mets need. They also have healthy veteran David Wright playing third base and ready to have a productive season. Wright batted .269 with eight home runs and 63 RBI’s last season. Look for those numbers to nearly double this season. The Mets have a strong team that will take them far this season and into the playoffs.
The NL Central is a division where the teams are always exchanging places. At the end of the season the Cardinals will finish in first place. Ace Adam Wainwright looks to have a great season as he returns to the Cardinals healthy. Gold Glover Yadier Molina returns to catch after missing a few games last season due to injury as well. The Cardinals have a stellar outfield, starting with Matt Holliday in left, John Jay in center and Jason Heyward in right. Offensively and defensively these guys can produce, whether with the bat or glove. The Cardinals are a young team energized by a young manager in Mike Matheny. This is a team that wins by playing fundamental baseball.
Last but not least is the NL West. The reigning World Series Champs, the Giants, are most likely not going to return to the World Series and are not going to finish the season in first. Let’s cut to the chase, we all know the Dodgers are the best team in the West and National League. With a dominant pitching rotation, led by back-to-back Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and 2009 winner Zack Greinke, the Dodgers will be fanning batters all night. As for offense, the lineup is full of veteran hitters. Look for Adrian Gonzalez to have a great season. He is likely to produce 20 or more home runs and lead the Dodgers to the playoffs.